Writer: Tom King
Artist + Colors: Mitch Gerads
Cover: Nick Derington
Published: April 18, 2018
It’s an oft repeated tale about how having a kid changes you, and it lets you start sentences by saying ‘as a mom’ or ‘as a dad’ if that’ a thing you want to do (this whole ‘as a dad’ thing has been floating around video games a lot recently so it’ in my head bit). It is also a reliable sitcom trope that a show can fall back on if after a couple seasons the writers think things need an unexpected shake up. And undoubtedly having or adopting a child is a life altering/axis tilting life event, but in the context of a twelve issue mini series that is both existential and sometimes obtuse what does the introduction of Scott and Barda’s son mean? In the previous issue it was an opportunity to both to introduce some levity (with Barda’s odd relatives showing up) and focus on their relationship. If the previous issue was (at least a little bit) about new life then this issue is about (at least a little bit) death, with the opening page showing Scott using a sniper rifle to kill a hitler-esque figure on Apokolips. This is only the beginning of the violence, but the next page cuts to Scott heating up a bottle for their son (Jacob) while Funky Flashman (who was dead?) mildly chastises him for doing it differently than Barda. We learn that Scott and Barda have been alternating days at home and fighting on Apokolips. This sets the up the narrative device for the issue which cuts between gentle domestic scenes of Scott at home with Jacob and at the war front surrounded by death. Often while Scott is at the war (and usually during particularly gruesome moments) he is talking to Barda via a Mother Box who is providing him with baby updates because he can’t be there. At one point some sort of New Genesis device is basically reattaching the bottom half of Scott’s left leg while Barda tells him about how Jacob doesn’t want to fall asleep. In another instance Barda is telling Scott about her Doctor appointment as he prepares for single combat for the fate of the war. And in perhaps the most difficult scene of the issue Scott is throwing the body of a dead New Genesis soldier into a mass grave while Barda talks to him about Jacob’s first laugh. In each of these scenes, where there is a huge dichotomy between what he’s seeing and hearing, Scott is rather stoic. He grimaces as he leg is repaired, but it’s a result of physical pain, and in none of these scenes does he demonstrate emotional distress, (at least via his face). The only point at which that breaks is when (at the end of the issue) he sees a tiny Apokolips monster with big eyes and a disproportionately large head (it slightly resembles a human baby). Scott is with Lightray who does not hesitate to kill it even as Scotts begs him to stop. All of this is in contrast to the tenderness and affection Scott shows at home where he is a doting and attentive father who worries about naps, feeding times, and keeping things out of the baby’s crib.
This issue focuses almost entirely on Scott (Barda is depicted in the last two pages) and seems to be telling/showing/commenting on Scott’s ability to (almost) completely isolate these two parts of his life. One has no bearing on the other. As tender as he is with his new son he must be equally ruthless in his efforts against the armies of Apokolips. During a stressful moment in a strategy discussion with Barda he asks the rhetorical question, “What the hell does he think war is?” It’s a rhetorical question so there isn’t, and isn’t supposed to be, an answer, but what does Scott think war is, and should has involvement in it have any bearing on the rest of his life? The answer, or at least Scott’s answer, seems to be no, because how else could he confront the image of all those dead soldiers while he discusses the baby’s laughter. How can life be so important in one context, and be worth so little in another? The burden of this question is not Scott’s to answer as this question cuts close to center of the human condition. How do we love our neighbor/our family/a stranger as we love ourselves? The context here is how can Scott have so much love for his child, but so little for the men who are willing to die for him. But seeing as how humans have failed to answer this question for thousands of years (wars, colonialism, genocide, racism, segregation, consumer capitalism) Scott can only be implicated as much as we are all implicated in the failure of the human race to be better (which is why I said earlier that this issue doesn’t really judge Scott). Perhaps the change that comes from having a child is demonstrated in the mercy that Scott wants to extend to the humanoid-ish monster he finds on Apokolips. Maybe this is a moment that Scott will reflect on and wonder why taking the life of that small creature caused him anguish when he felt nothing at the deaths of so many others. Or maybe it means nothing, and you carry on with war and life and death because “Darkseid Is.”
After a previous issue that was very light on action this issue is filled with it and it is very good. Mitch Gerads has maintained a very high level of art on this book and this issue is maybe one of of his best (up there with issue #6). The way the violence, and it is very violent is balanced by moments of tenderness and domesticity is very good. There are a few moments were Scott’s facial expressions are really important and the focus of a few panels that Gerads draws and colors fantastically.
(Subjective) Score out of 10: 8